Let’s face it, if I actually needed to do justice to an inventory of the ten greatest movies that includes the late Sir Christopher Lee, I might have needed to watch three films per day for nearly three months. (The man has 280 credit to his identify in his IMDb filmology. This doesn’t embrace the music movies he made with numerous heavy metallic rock bands within the late 2000s-early 2010s.)
Since I wasn’t prepared to take a position that period of time into researching this text, I scoured by means of movie discussion board feedback and the like for clues to the movies/performances which might be probably the most constant favorites amongst Lee’s legions of followers. Then I watched the movies that have been beneficial.
Word: I filtered out his performances in movies that aren’t within the horror or thriller/fantasy style, as a result of, in any case, this can be a horror information website. In line with Lee himself, he considers his greatest work to have been a biopic, Jinnah (1998), the place he performed Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of recent Pakistan. Clips on YouTube of Lee as Jinnah do present that he turned in a exceptional efficiency. He additionally kicked butt within the little-known movie, The Disputation (1986), the place he performed the King of Spain, making an attempt to dealer a medieval theological dialogue between a number one Christian theologian and a number one Jewish one. And he excelled as Rochefort within the very fashionable Three Musketeers movies of the 70s.
An unlikely actor who dreamed of being an opera star like his well-known great-grandmother, Marie Carandini, Lee had a exceptional profession. It lasted proper up till he died in 2015 on the age of 93. He typically stated he most popular to “die with my boots on,” like his pal and fellow horror legend, Boris Karloff.
At first, his profession sputtered for a great 10 years, consisting principally of small roles in British warfare movies and costume dramas. At 6’ 5”, he was thought-about far too tall for main roles; most actors refused to work with him as a result of he made them look brief. He was additionally turned down due to his darkish, Mediterranean options, which weren’t in vogue in British movies of the 40s and 50s. (He was half-Italian.)
All that modified when Sir Chris was forged as The Creature in a 1957 reboot of the Common Studios’ Frankenstein franchise by Hammer Films. In that position a minimum of, his unusual peak was thought-about an asset, not a legal responsibility. Whereas engaged on that movie, he met two very nice influences: Terence Fisher, the highest director at Hammer, and Peter Cushing, his life-long pal and co-star, with whom he would make greater than 20 movies. (His friendship with Cushing lasted till the actor handed away within the early 1990s.) Fisher, for his half, would forged Lee in considered one of his biggest roles—Dracula–and in lots of different movies, up till the late 60s.
Starting within the 80s, as Hammer-type horror was waning, Lee began to simply accept extra roles in mainstream movies, corresponding to Steven Spielberg’s flop comedy, 1941 (1979). It wasn’t, nevertheless, till he was forged as Saruman the White, the villain in Peter Jackson’s blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy of the early 2000s, that he achieved true A-list appearing standing. He was virtually 80 years previous.
Provides flooded in by the bucket after that, and the 2000s turned considered one of his busiest many years, although he was in his 80s. On the finish of that eventful decade, in 2009, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. (He had all the time been the Aristocracy, nevertheless, since his mom was an Italian countess.)
With all that in thoughts, right here’s my record of the Prime 10 movies that includes the good Sir Christopher Lee:
- The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), directed by Man Hamilton; starring Lee, Roger Moore, Britt Ekland, Maude Adams and Herve Villechaize. This isn’t the perfect Bond film, nevertheless it options among the best Bond villains, in Francisco Scaramunga, excellently performed by Lee with cheerful, smiling menace.
Scaramunga is an internationally famend hit man who makes use of a gold-plated gun and gold bullets to make his kills. When Scaramunga’s girlfriend (Adams) sends a signature gold bullet to British intelligence inscribed with the quantity 007, Bond units off to seek out him; the standard silliness of the Roger Moore-era Bond ensues, because the chase continues throughout a number of continents earlier than Scaramunga is lastly dispatched. The over-long movie lags within the center and turns into tedious, however the performances of Lee and Herve Villechaiz (as Scaramunga’s diminutive henchman) rescue it within the final 30 minutes or so. Enjoyable reality: Lee’s stepfather was the uncle of Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond. Lee as soon as informed an interviewer that Scaramunga was the identify of an actual one that’d attended boarding faculty with Fleming, one whom Fleming significantly disliked.
- The Metropolis of the Lifeless (1960) AKA Horror Lodge, directed by John Lewellyn Moxey, starring Lee, Betta St. John, Venetia Stevenson, Patricia Jessel, and Denis Lotis. Lee performs Alan Driscoll, a sinister historical past professor at a small school in New England, on this atmospheric, b&w story of witchcraft.
Secretly an immortal warlock, Driscoll sends a scholar, Nan Barlow (Stevenson), to a distant city in rural Massachusetts to review witchcraft practices for a time period paper. When Nan disappears, her brother (Lotis)— a rival colleague of Driscoll’s —and her boyfriend drive to the city to research. They put their very own lives in peril, because the city is definitely occupied by immortal witches who sacrifice younger ladies to the satan to remain alive. Lee essays an upper-class American accent pretty nicely, and imbues his character together with his regular dominating depth. The shadowy cinematography by Desmond Dickinson (who shot the legendary 1948 model of Hamlet starring Laurence Olivier) and creepy rating by Douglas Gamely and Ken Jones actually add to the environment.
- The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), directed by Terence Fisher for Hammer Films; starring Lee, Peter Cushing, and Hazel Courtroom. This was Lee’s first position in horror, enjoying The Creature reverse Cushing as Baron Von Frankenstein. Lee doesn’t do rather more than lurch round and look menacing, whereas Cushing carries the movie, however he does it nicely. He additionally appears nothing like Previous Squarehead Boris Karloff as The Creature, for good cause: Common Studios threatened to sue if Hammer’s Creature seemed something like Karloff as theirs. So Lee on this movie simply appears like a extra demented model of Edward Scissorhands. Like most of Fisher’s Hammer movies, this movie is sort of colourful (shot in sensible Eastmancolor), and it particularly exhibits within the flashy robes worn by Hazel Courtroom because the Baron’s fiancé. This movie was an enormous departure from the darkish, gloomy horror movies of the previous. The Curse of Frankenstein was a smash hit, resulting in extra Hamer roles for Lee, typically working with Fisher and Cushing.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), directed by Terence Fisher, starring Lee, Peter Cushing, Andre Morell, and Marla Landi. Yet one more collaboration of Lee, Cushing and Fisher, this is likely one of the best-ever variations of the oft-filmed Sherlock Holmes story. Lee performs Sir Henry Baskerville, who has inherited his uncle’s grand property on the Devonshire Moors. Cushing is Holmes, referred to as in to research the mysterious demise of Sir Henry’s uncle, ostensibly by the hands of an enormous supernatural hound that has haunted the Baskerville household for greater than 100 years. Lee truly will get to speak on this one and he does fairly properly because the brooding aristocrat who believes he’s dwelling underneath a curse. Like a lot of the Terence Fisher Hammer movies, this one options sensible Technicolor filmwork, plenty of element, and lavish units. On disc and streaming.
- The Satan Rides Out (1968), directed by Terence Fisher; starring Lee, Patrick Mower, Charles Grey, and Leon Greene. Based mostly on a novel by horror/occult author Dennis Wheatley, this movie is one in every of Lee’s hottest Hammer productions that isn’t a Dracula movie. And for as soon as, he performs “the good guy,” as an alternative of a villain.
Sir Christopher portrays the Duc de Richleau, a French nobleman who lives in England and research the occult. When the Duc’s godson, Simon (Patrick Mower), falls beneath the sway of a devil-worshipping cult, he springs into motion to battle the cult’s chief, Mocato (Charles Grey) for Simon’s physique and soul. This movie is extra of an motion movie than a slow-burner, as Lee and a pal give chase to Mocato throughout England, together with a secret go to to a wooded grove the place Devil seems within the guise of a creature referred to as The Goat of Mendes. The particular results are extraordinarily dated, however Lee’s bravado efficiency because the derring-do Duc pushes the plot ahead properly. An enormous fan favourite, that is the final movie Lee made with Terence Fisher. On disc.
- Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), directed by George Lucas; starring Lee, Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, and Samuel L. Jackson. That is the most effective of the three Star Wars prequels that debuted within the late 90s-to-mid-2000s. As soon as once more forged as a titled aristocrat, Lee reprises his position as Rely Dooku, the previous Jedi Knight turned Sith Lord. He dies by the hands of Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) throughout a light-weight sabre battle in one of many movie’s greatest scenes. Regardless of being 83 when this movie debuted, Lee continues to be capable of convincingly play a strong adversary and swordsman (albeit in all probability with the assistance of a double throughout probably the most strenuous scenes.) On disc and streaming.
- The Mummy (1959), directed by Terence Fisher; starring Lee, Peter Cushing, Yvonne Furneaux, George Pastell, and Raymond Huntley. One other Hammer collaboration of Lee, Cushing and Fisher, this one can also be brilliantly coloured and deftly directed. Lee performs Kharis, an historic Egyptian priest who was walled up within the tomb of a ravishing princess he liked.
Cushing performs a member of a late 19th Century British archaeology group who uncover the princess’s tomb and by accident revive the mother of Kharis. A fez-wearing Egyptian cultist (Pastell) good points management of the mother and brings him to England to actual revenge from the staff for desecrating the tomb. Lee manages to create a sympathetic character out of the mother regardless of having no strains, primarily by staring with sad-puppy-dog eyes out of his moldy, mummy masks.The sensible Technicolor movie makes Cushing’s blue eyes seem like two vibrant lumps of melted, cornflower-blue Crayola crayons, amongst different startling results. On disc and streaming.
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and The Two Towers (2002), directed by Peter Jackson; starring Lee, Ian McKellen, Vigo Mortensen, Elijah Wooden, Cate Blanchett, and others. Lee achieved far higher worldwide stardom than he might have imagined again in his Hammer days when he was forged as Saruman, the primary villain in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy, based mostly on the darkish fantasy novels of J. R. R. Tolkien. (Enjoyable reality: Lee truly knew Tolkien.)
Lee was virtually 80 when he first performed the position of the evil wizard who goals of ruling Center Earth. Nevertheless, his deep, booming voice continues to be as highly effective as ever he rouses his troops into battle and verbally duels with McKellen as Gandalf. (He additionally offered voiceovers for quite a few video video games based mostly on the LOTR books.) The first two legs of the trilogy function his most dominating performances; most of his scenes have been reduce from the third movie’s theatrical launch, a lot to Lee’s disgust, though they have been restored within the DVD prolonged launch. On disc and streaming.
- Horror of Dracula (1958), directed by Terence Fisher; starring Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, and Melissa Stribling. Lee’s first foray into the Rely’s crypt stays his greatest; he would play Dracula 9 extra occasions after this one. Of all of the actors who’ve portrayed Bram Stoker’s vampire onscreen for almost 100 years, solely Bela Lugosi is extra recognized with the character than Lee. On this model, which put Hammer on the map, Jonathan Harker is a well known literary scholar who arrives at Drac’s fort in Transylvania to take a paid submit as Drac’s private librarian. Opposite to the guide, Harker already is aware of that Drac is a vampire and has come to destroy him, however Drac turns the tables on Harker and he finally ends up being vamped himself.
Enter Peter Cushing as Van Helsing to complete the job Harker couldn’t ship. This manufacturing options loads of expertly plotted suspense, particularly the well-known scene main as much as Harker’s demise. Within the early scenes, Lee performs Drac as a typical well mannered, chilly aristocrat, who switches to a relentless, feral beast when in vamp mode. His peak is used to nice benefit in scenes the place he towers over his victims. On disc and streaming.
1.The Wicker Man (1973), directed by Robin Hardy; starring Lee, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, and Ingrid Pitt. This is likely one of the biggest horror films ever made and was Lee’s favourite of all of the movies he did over his terribly lengthy profession. As Lord Summerisle, Sir Chris portrays the sinister however charming ruler of an island off the coast of Scotland, the place the residents have forged off Christianity and embraced the pre-Christian spiritual beliefs of the British Isles. Woodward performs Sargent Howie, a policeman from the mainland despatched to the island to research the disappearance of a younger woman named Rowan. Quickly, the Sargent turns into satisfied that Rowan was sacrificed by the islanders in a pagan ritual. By the top of the movie, the actual sacrifice is revealed—in a scene that also shocks some 45-years after The Wicker Man was launched. On disc and streaming; keep away from the 2006 remake just like the plague.
Honorable Point out:
Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966), directed by Terence Fisher; starring Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Weir, and Francis Matthews. Lee’s second stint as Dracula leaves behind almost all the Bram Stoker e-book, and introduces the viewers to an entire new set of characters. It begins with a flashback to the dying of Drac by the hands of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing in Horror of Dracula (1958), however in any other case Cushing doesn’t seem. As an alternative, two brothers and their wives are touring via the Carpathian mountains by coach when their coachman abruptly stops and dumps them off in the midst of the forest. They’re planning to spend the night time in an previous shack within the woods when a driverless coach and horses seem, who take them to Dracula’s citadel. There, a servant drains the blood of one of many brothers and makes use of it to resurrect Dracula’s ashes. Then Drac (performed by Lee) begins to pursue the others. This movie drags at first and Dracula doesn’t even present up till 40 minutes into the movie, however it’s nonetheless a effective addition to the Lee-Dracula cannon. On disc and streaming.
Dr. Terror’s Home of Horrors (1965), directed by Freddie Francis, starring Lee, Peter Cushing, and Donald Sutherland. Regardless of the hokey title, this Amicus movie is a wonderful anthology function, consisting of 5 totally different segments. Cushing performs a mysterious previous man touring in a practice compartment with 5 different passengers, together with Lee as Franklyn Marsh, a snobbish artwork critic who continuously ridicules the previous man. To cross the time, he provides to learn every passenger their fortune with tarot playing cards, and this units up every phase. Lee stars in one of many strongest tales, as Marsh cruelly torments an artist to suicide, after which is stalked by the artist’s severed hand. Humorous and creepy, with Lee doing delicate comedy because the impolite critic. On disc.
The Whip and the Physique (1963), directed by Mario Bava (underneath the identify of John M. Previous); starring Lee, Dahlia Lavi, Tony Kendall, and Evelyn Stewart (as Isli Oberon). This movie is notable for being Lee’s solely movie with the good Italian horrormeister, Mario Bava. He performs Kurt Menliff, the black sheep of an aristocratic Japanese European household, who returns to the household fort after an extended sojourn away. He resumes his kinky affair together with his brother’s spouse, Nevenka (Lavi), which options some S&M scenes (a bit surprising for the period), till he turns up murdered. However that’s not the top of Kurt. The plot is a bit skinny, however the movie options that particular previous Bava magic with lush cinematography offered partially by Bava himself, and a haunting rating by Carlo Rustichelli (billed right here as Murphy). On disc and streaming.